Ah Birmingham. An English cricketing fortress and cultural powerhouse. Home to world’s most beautifully named football club, the UK’s spiciest balti, and a musician named Astro. It’s also the place where Richie Benaud uttered arguably the two most revered words in the sporting lexicon: “Jones! Bowden!”
I’m afraid I wasn’t able to watch yesterday’s play live because I’m dealing with a family bereavement. Therefore I was reliant on the C5 highlights and social media reaction. It sounded like a typical England performance really: a Root half-century, some soft dismissals, and a good position squandered. It has been the same since Bell, Trott, and Pietersen either retired or were chucked out. The only exceptions have been in games when we never really established a good position in the first place. In other words we just capitulated without ever threatening something better. Oh well.
My thoughts from afar can be summarised thus. Having watched Ashwin pick up valuable wickets on day one, I bet England wished they’d chosen a second spinner. It’s kind of daft not to do so when you’re playing a specialist batsman at 7. Malan and Buttler mustered just 8 runs between them yesterday. What a waste. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if England want to make Jos the heartbeat of the side then put him up the order! Malan hasn’t scored runs for a while and hasn’t even threatened to do so. Moeen is probably more likely to score runs than Malan anyway, plus he’s a good spinner at home. Hmmm. The team selection seems illogical to me.
The other thing that has surprised people is the quality of India’s attack. I heard it all in the build up to the game: their seamers are toothless and Ashwin is crap overseas. Not so I’m afraid. Ashwin has learned quite a bit playing for Worcestershire, and Shami and Yadav are quicker than traditional Indian seamers. The former has always impressed me. Even Ishant has been getting some useful practice recently in county cricket.
I think it’s fair to say that England have a challenge on their hands. If India can post decent totals in this series then they’ll have every chance of winning, especially as it seems more and more apparent that this particular set of players have been drilled to win 50 over tournaments not test matches. We keep wondering why a batting line up that looks so tasty on paper keeps underperforming. Well there’s the obvious answer right there.
Before I sign off, I’d quickly like to relay a mind expanding stat I heard yesterday. Alastair Cook has played in over 15% of all test matches played by England, ever! I know this might seem pretty obvious when ones does the maths (England have played 1000 tests and Cook has approx 150 caps) but it’s still mind blowing. Talk about longevity.